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Queen's University

Human Rights Office

Sexual Harassment and Its Implications for Universities

What is sexual harassment?

In the Bell Case (1980), an Ontario Board of Inquiry determined that a restaurant manager had not sexually harassed two female employees. The Chairperson provided a useful definition of sexual harassment and underscored that sexual harassment was a form of sex discrimination. This case, whose principles were upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, constitutes the foundation for sexual harassment law in Canada.

Is the employer liable for sexual harassment committed by its supervisory staff?

In the Robichaud Case (1987), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Department of National Defence was vicariously liable for the act of sexual harassment committed by a member of its supervisory staff. The male supervisor had coerced a female employee into having a sexual relationship with him.

How do the rules of natural justice apply to sexual harassment investigations?

In the Racky Case (2003), an arbitrator overturned the Canada Post Corporation's ruling that a supervisor had not sexually harassed an employee. The arbitrator found that the internal investigation had neglected to provide the complainant with the opportunity to respond to adverse comments made by witnesses; to evaluate contradictions in testimony; and to consider facts positive to the complainant.

What is considered appropriate discipline for professors who sexually harass, or have undisclosed dual relationships with, their students?

In the Dutton (2001), Dupuis (1993)and Brandon (1993) cases, three professors were disciplined for having sexually harassed their students. Dutton conducted professional meetings in a sexualized setting; Dupuis made unwelcome sexual advances; and Brandon made a series of inappropriate sexual comments. In Okanagon (1997)and Memorial (1997), two professors were penalized for having engaged in "dual relationships" with their students. It was found that the dual relationships, although not sexual harassment, were ethically inappropriate and should have been disclosed to appropriate authorities.

How should universities intervene when students sexually harass other students?

InB and W et al (1993), an Ontario High Court of Justice supported a university's decision to expel a male law student. The student had erroneously claimed that the university had no right to make decisions about his academic future based on his past non-academic conduct.

Under U.K. law, does sexual harassment amount to sex discrimination as it does under Canadian law?

In Porcelli (1993), an Employment Appeal Tribunal determined that a campaign of vindictiveness orchestrated against a female laboratory assistant by two male co-workers amounted to both sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Before this time, U.K. tribunals tended to consider sexual harassment as separate from sexual discrimination.

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